Friday, August 3, 2012

The Skinny -- Lilly Pulitzer

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Many believe that the fashion designer, Lilly Pulitzer, created the resort wear industry back in the 1960s with her iconic printed cotton shifts.  Lilly created summery dresses, pants, and other pieces that spoke to her Palm Beach lifestyle year round, and never saw the need to expand her line to include fall/winter clothing.  According to Lilly,  "It’s always summer somewhere.” 

Lilly Pulitzer found inspiration for her dresses in her everyday life.  Needing a hobby to occupy her time, she started working at her husband's fruit juice stand in 1960.  She soon realized that clothing that could hide juice stains and still look fashionable was a must.  Picking out some bright cotton prints, Lilly worked with a seamstress to develop her basic shift that allowed her to stay cool and cute, as well as incorporating side slits that allowed for bending over.  People wanted the dresses, and she started selling them at the juice stand.

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Her shifts became instantly famous when the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, a childhood classmate, was pictured in Life magazine wearing one of Lilly's dresses.  After only one year, she opened Lilly Pulizter, Inc.

Lilly worked with Key West Fabrics to create her classic prints. Using Palm Beach as her inspiration, she made funky and whimsical prints in bright colors, and she became especially known for her pink and green combinations.  Her name, Lilly, is worked in the design of the print, usually in more than one location. 

In our Etsy shop.

  In the late 1960s and early 70s,  Lilly expanded the line to include menswear, accessories and other off shoots.   She created a junior line and a girl's line, named for her two daughters.  She started to include cotton blends, as well as polyester and cotton knits.

Lilly retired in 1984, but the rights to her company were bought in the 90s and the product lines revamped.  She consulted on the new lines, and it has had a rebirth in popularity.  People still want to wear fun, comfortable clothes, but more importantly, clothes that feel like snapshots of American fashion history. 

Two great resources to date and authenticate your vintage Lilly Pulitzer clothing is the Vintage Fashion Guild's label guide, found here: or Fuzzy Lizzie's site, here:

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On the Radar -- 60s and 70s Geometric Prints

Prada. Photo from

 On the Radar is our weekly post where we get to talk about what we, the Blackbird girls, think the next big things are out there in design.  We have this problem, you see.  It never fails that about two months to a year after we start talking about what we like and what we want to feature somewhere -- in our Etsy shop or in the antique mall window -- it shows up in Country Living.  Or Martha Stewart.  Or on HGTV.  Now, we know everyone out there in "Design Land" drinks the same Kool-Aid and feeds off the same inspirations.  However, our process tends to be a bit more internal, organic, and dare I say it, vintage inspired!  As you probably already know, we LOVE vintage and antique things, so we get most of our inspiration from that.  

Michael Miller. Photo from

This week's post is about something we have always loved and have always been drawn to...1960s and 70s Mod/Geometric prints.  There's just something about an optic print that pulls us in.  Bright colors, neutrals -- doesn't matter.  It's all about the repeat and the graphic joy of a cool design.  We've noticed it popping up everywhere -- home fashions, high fashion, and even the craft world.  This chair, for example, has been recovered in Michael Miller quilting cotton, designed by Patty Young.  Fabric like this is accessible -- mainly because of price point.  Cotton crafting prints are a great way to maximize your design without spending tons of money.  These exact fabrics come in under $12 per yard, making them ideal for throw pillows, art projects, and even sweet little cotton dresses!

When we opened our Elle magazine for August, we were bombarded with images of suits and dresses made from 60s geometric prints.  Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Etro, and Prada are just a few of the designers featured.  Not only did they make individual, stand alone pieces, but they combined multiple prints. Layering pattern on top of pattern takes skill -- but the effect is dynamite!  Printed bags, shoes, dresses, jackets -- nothing is overlooked.

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1970s Blouse from Blackbird Antiques.  Ross House Boutique.

We still say that vintage is best, though.  If you wear vintage or live with vintage housewares, you know that your items are more one-of-a-kind.  Unique.  There may be more of the item out there, somewhere buried in an attic or a thrift store, but you can pretty much guarantee that nobody else in your town will have it!  The thrill of the hunt, and knowing that your item is special, can make ownership of vintage items a special thing.  Especially when you are right on trend, and just as fab as Prada (without the Prada price...)!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Junk Love Monday: For the Love of Junk

We are the ladies of Blackbird Antiques, lovers of all things vintage and fabulous. (This is a polite way of saying that we are addicted to buying old junk.) It would be fair to say that we love everything we buy. This love may vary from the innocent "I want to save you from someone else's garbage can, so I will take you home with me" type, to the soul-searing Lord of the Rings-style "my precious!" kind of attachment, the "I will cut you if you take that" kind of lust. As roommates and business partners, we cultivate 50+ separate collections between us, and this doesn't really factor in that magical unicorn known as the crossover collection, which will be discussed in a future post.

Why do we buy? People have different reasons, which we have observed out of  anthropological curiosity over the last decade of working in the antiques business. Sometimes, the need to buy comes from the good day/week/year that you are already having. You feel on top of the world, and cheerfully reinforce that with a slight junk-buying buzz. This is what gives you the opportunity to blissfully browse and purchase, without remorse, something that is interesting, pretty, or complimentary to what you already own. A pair of embroidered pillowcases, perhaps, or a nice, but functional, pottery dish.

Then there are the times when life is not going so well, when the baggage that you carry becomes a mountain that you have to climb up every day to make sure that it really is daylight somewhere (dramatic, huh?). A voice, just a whisper at first, starts to nag at you--buy something and you'll feel better. You try to resist, then you pretend to try to resist (don't be ashamed, we've all been there), and finally, like the true junk addict that you are, you say "well, maybe I'll just look around for a minute." This becomes "well, I'll just get this one" and moments later, you feel the buzz. It's a much tamer version of an illicit affair. You satisfy a craving, make yourself feel better, and then at the end you've still got a fabulous pair of smiling tomato salt and pepper shakers, which you will work hard to convince yourself and everyone else that you are actually going to use, because you really did need some shakers.

A collector buys with the intent to continue curating. We can now subdivide this into the casual collectors and the true collectors. The difference? A casual collector buys occasionally, but never seeks out. These people leave it all up to fate, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a low-stress, low-maintenance way to accumulate things that you love, and collections made in this way are fabulous, regardless of the effort or expense it took to get there. What we call a "true collector" is a more aggressive sort. Regardless of personality, true collectors all have a Type A individual lurking in the back of the brain, one who will relentlessly pursue ownership of an item based on what is almost a primitive urge. These are the collectors who are always, always, on the hunt for that perfect example, the missing link that will elevate their collection to the ideal state. Wouldn't you love to have the World's Most Extensive, or even better, The Definitive collection of something? People would write books about you and your things! Museums would woo you! You might be on television!

And sometimes, every now and then, we have no idea why we buy. The stars align, an opportunity presents itself, and it happens to be on sale. Something unexpected catches our eye and calls our name. This is how new collections are born. We have a rule in the antiques business: three makes a collection. If you own three things connected by a common thread, then you are a collector, whether you want to be or not. Three slide rulers? Yep. Three or more rotary telephones? Sure. Three green glass vases, all of different shapes, sizes, and makers? Sorry, but you are officially a collector of green glass. Don't worry! Collections can be general or specific. Sometimes, they are both. We Blackbird girls are currently cultivating a collection of tiny tins. We don't care what the tins are for, which makes our collection general. The one unifying criterion is that they are smaller than 2 inches, which makes the collection quite specific. We have also added an addendum to the rule: if you buy one, with the intent to buy more, it's a collection anyway. Some things are harder to find than others. You could throw a rock in an antique store (not a good idea, because you might get arrested) and hit a dozen Coca Cola items, but what if you fall in LOVE with a single Eskimo figurine? In our part of the country, you don't find Eskimo-themed items very often. But if it whispers sweet nothings in your ear and you want nothing more than to take it home and build a shrine in its honor, then you are now a collector of vintage Eskimos. It may be five years before you find a second one, and another five before you find that third, but you can call it a collection in progress from the moment he winks back at you from your bookshelf.

For us, a vacation means stopping at as many thrift and antique stores as we can in a day's time. We have a "free love" kind of relationship with the junk we find. Approximately half of the items we buy for resale end up charming their way into the house instead. Our house will probably collapse under the weight of it all someday, or we'll have to buy houses next door to each other (we can't separate some of these collections!), but our junk brings us joy, and we wouldn't have it any other way.